Relationship between Adolescents’ Alienation and Pathological Internet Use: Testing the Moderating Effect of Family Functioning and Peer Acceptance
2011, 43 (04):
Internet as an important media has become an inevitable part of adolescents’ lives. Although Internet meet various needs of adolescents, such as expressing emotions and seeking sense of belonging, misuse of Internet could result in psychological, social and academic problems during adolescence (Young & Rodgers, 1998; Davis, 2001; Lei & Yang, 2007). In this study, we use the term of pathological Internet use (PIU) to refer to the degree of adolescents’ misuse of Internet and its negative outcomes.
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Alienation is a negative emotional state, reflecting individual incompetence in dealing with others and establishing an effective bond with social groups. Existing researches demonstrated that adolescents with high alienation were inclined to use Internet excessively. Researches on the relationship between pathological Internet use and adolescents’ negative emotions reveal that positive factors of family and peer groups may be of important buffering effects (Thomas & Schare, 2000; Slater, 2003; Gross, 2004; Gao & Chen, 2006; Yeh et al., 2008). Thus it is reasonable to assume that family functioning and peer acceptance could have a moderating effect on the relationship between adolescents’ alienation and their pathological Internet use.
The present study was to investigate the descriptive characteristics of adolescents’ pathological Internet use and its relation to alienation, and to find whether or not healthy family functioning and peer acceptance could protect adolescents with high alienation from pathological Internet use. A total of 549 adolescents in the 7th (54 boys and 51 girls, Mage=12.84±0.48), 8th (54 boys and 51 girls, Mage=13.92±0.40), 9th (50 boys and 49 girls, Mage=15.06±0.50), 10th (81 boys and 43 girls, Mage=16.29±0.49) and 11th (62 boys and 54 girls, Mage=17.24± 0.43) grades of 5 high schools completed self-report questionnaires and Peer Nomination survey. The self-report questionnaires used in this study included Adolescent Pathological Internet Use Scale (APIUS), General Alienation Scale and Family Assessment Device.
According to the screening criterion, 8.93% adolescents who had PIU scores higher than 3.15 were identified as specific PIU, indicating that their level of pathological Internet use was rather high. Female adolescents reported a higher level of salience of PIU than male ones, and adolescents of grade seven reported more negative outcomes related to PIU than those of other grades except for grade eight. Adolescents with a higher level of alienation also tended to report more pathological Internet use. Family functioning could moderate significantly the relationship between adolescents’ alienation and their pathological Internet use. Specifically, healthy family functioning played a protective role for adolescents with higher alienation in reducing their pathological Internet use. Despite that existing literatures revealed peers provided important support for adolescents, the protective role of peer acceptance was not observed in this study.
Overall, our findings confirmed the existence of protective effect of healthy family functioning, which suggested that both characteristics of adolescent’s emotion and the positive effect of family functioning should be considered together in order to promote adolescents to use Internet properly.